REMEMBERING ~ Thomas Fire took their home but not their spirit

It was important that Elmer, Gracie Mae and Bandito accompany them. 

REMEMBERING ~ Thomas Fire took their home but not their spirit

by James F. Gray 

Thomas Fire victims, Christopher Means (52) and his wife, Gail (54) lost their Ondulando home, but are planning to rebuild. Their first priority after the fire was to find a rental that would allow their three large rescues, all Dobermans from the Dobie and Little Paws Rescue in Filmore (also greatly affected by the fire). It took two months of commuting from their mother’s in Palm Springs to finally land at their current location in Oxnard with Elmer, Gracie Mae and Bandito accompanying them. 

However, there are many bright spots, such as the support of family, neighbors and friends, old and new, and the potential to build their dream house.

The Means hired architect and structural engineer, Mark Baker, who lives two streets away, for their reconstruction. They had met his wife and dog previously on walks around the neighborhood. The delay in getting back to the area meant a significant delay in getting started as Mr. Baker was well booked up by that time, but they couldn’t be happier with the choice.

The lot was unique, with an odd shape and many feet of fill over most of it. The city of Ventura, so far, has been fantastic, with every visit, request and even onsite consultations.

Their insurance has been wonderful, too—no issues there—they would highly recommend State Farm Insurance to anyone.

Although they have not broken ground yet, they are excited yet apprehensive about rebuilding costs, which may add an extra several hundred thousand dollars due to caissons, extra construction fees and building code changes. A new mortgage means delayed retirement, and the value of what it costs to build, plus the value of the lot could far exceed the value when complete. Being close to retirement, they are considering all options.

Still, the thought of the new home, spectacular location with amazing views, great neighbors and neighborhood, fills them with hope and excitement about the future. 

Whatever happens, they plan to retire in the Ventura area, on a nice private area with their dogs and the ocean close.       

Recently, Gail was caught in the evacuation from the Woolsey fire, having to drive through with fire on the hills. Coming up on the year anniversary of the loss has been difficult emotionally for them, as they remember the past and feel empathy for those recently whose lives have been touched with the same disaster just over the hill.


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